As President Obama, Latin American leaders, and political pundits debate what do with the influx of 50,000 unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States from Mexico and Central America since October 1, a bookseller, a professor, and members of the El Barrio community in Manhattan’s East Harlem neighborhood have begun a project to serve the educational and emotional needs of the detained children.
East Harlem’s La Casa Azul Bookstore, in collaboration with Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project (U-LAMP) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/Safe Passage Project, has spearheaded a book drive and a series of programs to collect Spanish-language and kid-appropriate books for young immigrants in the New York City region, and to raise awareness about their current situation.
The drive, taking place at the bookstore, is the brainchild of bookstore owner and activist Aurora Anaya-Cerda and longtime friend Isabel Martinez, a Latino Studies professor at John Jay, part of the City University of New York system.
“One day we were talking about this situation over coffee, and we decided to do something about it,” Anaya-Cerda told School Library Journal. “Since there are about 100 children in the Children’s Village at Dobbs Ferry, New York, which is not that far away from us, we came up with this project to help these children in need.” Martinez has been working with undocumented minors since 2006. Her grandmother entered the United States as an unaccompanied teenage migrant, and the topic is close to her heart, and also her research area.
Since the drive kicked off on Thursday, July 10, hundreds of books have flowed in. The first donations came from celebrated Latino authors Rudolfo Anaya, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros, followed by 200 books from Penguin. In addition to the book drive, two films exploring immigrant issues will be screened at the bookstore: Which Way Home on Thursday, July 24 and the Spanish language Sin Nombre on Sunday, August 10. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has also joined the project by donating the funds for materials to make greeting cards for the detained children and families. The cards will accompany the donated books.
Anaya-Cerda explained that the book drive is only the beginning of her efforts. “After the drive is over, we’ll be calling for volunteers to sort the donations. Then, the bookstore staff will be delivering books and spending time at the facility with the kids and families at least one day a month for the remainder of the year.” They are only accepting donations of age-appropriate, culturally relevant, Spanish-language books for preschool to middle school grade levels. The drive ends on August 10.
More on how to support the book drive from La Casa Azul Website:
1. Purchase books at La Casa Azul Bookstore, in NYC.
Mention the Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project (U-LAMP) and receive 10 percent off your book purchase.
2. Ship new/like new books to:
La Casa Azul Bookstore
143 E. 103rd St
New York, NY 10029
Attn: Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project (U-LAMP)
3. Email La Casa Azul Bookstore with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.